Comedy and horror are my two favorite genres of film, and they share a few critical common elements— chief among them—timing. It takes excellent timing to tell a good joke, and it takes excellent timing to craft a good scare, or to build a foreboding sense of dread. All hold one thing in common, and that’s the payoff. Whether the payoff ends up being horrific or hilarious all depends on the context of the storyteller, and how they’re telling their story, regardless if it’s humorous or tragic. Get Out is a perfect example of the type of movie that rides this line so perfectly, it successfully manages to capture the strengths of both genres without any of the weaknesses.
Most comedies tend to be plotless affairs centered around set pieces, sight gags, “Whedon-esque” dialogue delivery or slapstick, in order to get laughs. Nothing wrong with that, but it doesn’t change the fact that plot is often a secondary concern. In most horror films, the same relationship is paralleled, but with laughs traded for jump scares, fake outs, “Atmospheric tension” (aka boring scenes of hallways or something to symbolize inner turmoil) and of course, gore. Story isn’t necessarily the strongest point of any comedy, and neither is it for horror, though of course there’s many notable exceptions for each genre, but even fewer for films that combine the both. Shaun Of The Dead, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre ’74, American Werewolf In London. All amazingly made movies that are hilariously dark humored, and at times, intensely terrifying. Add onto that list of exceptions: Jordan Peele’s Get Out.
Get Out at first plays out like a really exceptional satirical sketch. Black guy goes with his white girlfriend to her parent’s house, they’re awkward, seem nice, but something about them seems off. What transpires goes from sketch fodder to a Hitchcockian ride through a downward spiral of paranoia and suspense, and Peele isn’t afraid to take us back and forth through the threshold of comedy and terror, back and forth, the way a master comic can lull and reel in an audience before landing the huge punchline and rocking the crowd. His camera placement is precise and adequately serviceable, with only one particular scene showing any real cinematic flair (to talk about it is to ruin it, unfortunately), but it’s a restrained flair, rather than a desperate attempt to liven things up visually. If anything, the strongest part of the film is the script, which is where Peele shines. Every character rings true, speaks realistically and thankfully, acts realistically, which is always appreciated in any horror film. A common complaint I often have with horror films is contrivances and unnecessary deus ex machina, tropes like the killer getting away, or a frustrating character not getting their just desserts, and I’m happy to report Get Out is not in this tradition. Subversive is probably an overused word, but it’s appropriate, for nearly every moment a character does something you’d groan over, the movie’s script takes steps to address nearly every single one of these kinds of moments.
Moments you’ve seen in every kind of suspense film are present throughout this movie, but each one is played with in inventive and fresh ways. We’ve all seen that scene in a movie where the protagonist can’t answer the phone, or the doomed friend gets laughed at by the cops when seeking help. Peele has clearly watched all of these movies and created a finely tuned script where his characters all act like real people, deal with situations competently, and most impressively of all, he made it laugh out loud hilarious AND scary. Whenever I see a movie like this that I feel is going to become an established classic, or is breaking fresh ground in some area, I always try to refrain from speaking hyperbolically, and it usually fails on some level. So if you like horror, or comedy, there’s no excuse, you’ve got to see this movie. They don’t make perfect horror/comedies too often, and when they do, they deserve your dollars. Jordan Peele is already known widely for his comic sensibilities, but this is an indication we might have a brand new master of horror in our midst. Those are my favorite kinds of comedians anyway, the ones who can make us laugh at the horrific that’s all around us. Now I’ll be adding Jordan Peele to my list of favorite directors as well, a voice of comedic reason ringing true in a sea of copycat supernatural thrillers.
Oh also, the movie will make you utterly terrified of white people. Like goddamn. They be cray.
GEEK Grade: A+
Get Out is in theaters now